IoT Evolution Expo kicked off its’ 17th event this morning at 9 am with a welcome from Fred Yentz, the CEO of Telit. At the time I was just landing at the airport from DC so unfortunately, I can’t share what he said but I’m pretty sure it was awesome.
However, I can share some of my takeaways from the various presentations and panels that I attended between meetings. I’ll also share my overall thoughts from Day One. So let’s get into it!
Telit Rapid IoT Development Kit
This presentation focused exclusively on Telit’s Rapid IoT Development Kit, described as the “swiss army knife of connectivity”.
The dev kit includes an LTE cellular antenna, lithium polymer battery, GPS, USB and mini-USB cords, power supply, EVK-4 development board, and DB9 M/F 9C serial cable. It’s priced at $149 — quite a bit of value for a relatively low price.
- To enable IoT applications, it needs to be easy to get a prototype up and functional quickly and cost effectively.
- Makers represent a significant and growing market for these kinds of products. Telit is pushing hard to provide low-cost and easy-to-use components to get a system working quickly.
- It’s important to couple these hardware dev kits with software tools. I saw this a lot at the NYC Maker Faire back in October. This allows makers to not waste time on the basics of making the system work, focusing instead on testing out interesting applications.
- “It’s all about the experience”. This holds true for any and every IoT application. You need to focus on the use case, how is this actually valuable to the end-user? Rapid prototyping allows individuals or organizations to test their value proposition early, ultimately allowing them to get to a better finished product in less time and at a lower cost.
From Sensors to Cloud
Alex Mateo, Industry Manager for Smart Cities at Libelium, spoke about complete smart city solutions. He delved into specific applications for smart cities, the challenges of deploying solutions, and the future of smart cities.
- Smart cities require buy-in from multiple constituents. To get the major/city council/citizens/etc. on board with a smart city initiative, they need to understand the value, costs, and timeline.
- This ties into a larger theme with IoT applications, the value needs to be clear for people or organizations to invest. For cities that do make the investment, as much as 26% of the costs of the city can be cut. It just takes upfront investment, then that saved money can be put towards education, public safety, etc.
- Smart cities are a necessity. By 2050, it’s projected that 75% of people on Earth will live in cities. Smart cities help cut costs, keep people safer, and have less impact on the environment by being more energy and resource efficient.
- Sensors that are increasingly more accurate and cheaper will enable better insights and ultimately greater savings (be that energy, cost, etc.).
Panel: How to Generate Revenue with IoT
Steve Brumer, partner at 151 Advisors, moderated a panel with three speakers…
Tim Acker, Vice President, Mobility & Connected Solutions at SYNNEX,
Scott Scheuber, Director of Product Management at U.S. Cellular, and
Jeff Pedro, Sr. Director, IoT Business Development at Connected Development.
- It’s not enough to have something that’s connected, there needs to be a why. Why is adding connectivity valuable to the end-user?
- It all comes down to customer needs. Businesses need to identify what customers need and find a solution. You can’t simply address wants — you need to go further.
- Consumer education on IoT is still lacking. Only 15% of population understands what IoT is. This means that you either need to educate the customer yourself (through marketing of some kind) or educate resellers so that they can sell your product to uneducated consumers. To do either, it’s important to have a compelling story that captures the value of what you’re selling.
- Simplicity is key. Since education is still lagging behind, anything too complex will encounter difficulties.
- Verticals matter. Tim suggests following federal money. If there’s some kind of mandate (such as regulations), businesses are forced to seek solutions and IoT can be a great answer. Such verticals might be transportation or utilities.
- When asked where they would invest if they had $10 million, Jeff said wearables (huge potential market, just need to overcome physical constraints), Scott said utilities (opportunity to modernize network), and Tim said public safety (many cool innovations coming out in this space).
At CES 2017, we saw too many consumer devices that were made “smart” for absolutely no reason. It’s heartening to see at IoT Evolution Expo that many companies have realized that it’s all about the user experience.
For any IoT application, it’s critical to consider the use case and the end-user. What value is actually being added? Then, there needs to be a means of rapidly prototyping and testing the use case. This allows for feedback from potential users to refine the product or potentially show that the use case isn’t worth pursuing. Rapid prototyping through simulation of devices can also keep costs low and speed up time to market.
However, there’s still huge room for improvement among IoT companies. Despite the realization that the focus needs to be on the user, many of the interfaces seem like they haven’t been updated in over a decade.
IoT continues to be built by engineers largely for engineers, and it will take a focus on user experience and human-centered design to finally bring IoT mainstream.